Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grand Canyon 2010 - Photos & Commentary - 5/14/10 thru 5/16/10

Day 1
This entry will, hopefully, give the reader an idea of what is involved in an excursion down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Although this was not an official Around the Bend Friends event, most of the participants were members of the club. The weekend could not have been more perfect in many ways and we all had an amazing time. It is difficult to tell the whole story without many pictures and there was an attempt to reduce the number so please enjoy.

The weather on the rim was quite cold when we began. A storm front was moving along the north rim of the canyon and it made for some beautiful scenery. By the time we were at Cedar Ridge, a mere 1.5 miles, we were shedding some of our outer layers. Twelve hikers hiked down the South Kaibab Trail and stayed together for much of the time. There were eight other hikers who came down via the Bright Angel Trail, cutting across on the Tonto Trail and finishing on the South Kaibab Trail.

We all know that we have had quite an unusual spring and the flowers were out in full force here at the canyon from the Tonto Plateau down to the bottom. We did not expect the amazing beauty that surrounded us as we trekked down through these areas. Of course, the squirrels were, again, an issue. From the top to the bottom, these little creatures would beg, borrow and steal to get to your human food. This picture was taken because it was unusual to see a squirrel actually eating what it was supposed to eat as it hung from the scrub bush.

We gathered at the Tipoff Point, took a small nourishment break then headed downhill once again. The weather was looking a little ominous so the pace did not slow down. Nearing the bottom, we did experience a few raindrops but nothing major. The river came into view as well as the two bridges. We would be crossing the Black Bridge for the South Kaibab Trail. Later, we would cross the Silver Bridge on the Bright Angel Trail return. In the picture below, you can see where Bright Angel Creek flows into the Colorado River from Bright Angel Canyon in which Phantom Ranch is situated.

One interesting fact: the mules only cross at the Black Bridge. The Silver Bridge's floor is made of a see-through grate which may make the mules balk. The floor of the Black Bridge has wooden slats laid lengthwise for comfortable hoofing. We entered a thirty-foot tunnel at the bottom of the canyon and came out on the bridge. We passed the boat landing and Native American pueblo ruins. Next, we passed the Bright Angel Campground and the Ranger's residence. Finally, we made our approach into Phantom Ranch ... past the mules and barn, past a few cabins, past the showers, and ...

... There it was; the famous spigot from which all hikers fill their used bottles and bladders with water! The spigot stood in front of the canteen/ souvenier store/ coffee house/ hotel registration desk/ dinner & breakfast dining room/ game room/ kitchen/ and, well, I think that may be it. We were assigned our cabin; inspected the wonderful shower rooms; then took up residence on one of the picnic tables by the canteen while we watched for the other hikers to come in. Dinner wasn't until 5:00 (for steak) or 6:30 (for stew). Before and after dinner, there were lectures which were given by a talented ranger named Mandi who lives down in this Shangri-la every other week.

Needless to say, we all slept pretty good that night.

Day 2

After breakfast at 6:30 the next morning, two hikes left out of the ranch. One group of hikers hiked up the North Kaibab Trail for about 6 miles to see Ribbon Falls. Another group of hikers (seen taking off in the picture to the left) decided to explore the Clear Creek Trail with overviews of the Colorado River and the inner canyon plateaus. (Two hikers left very early to hike up to the North Rim where they would sleep one night then return rim to rim the next day.)

The hike to Ribbon Falls began in a large slot canyon where the trail was fairly flat for about 5.5 miles. There were six bridges which crossed Bright Angel Creek on the way to the unique waterfall. The towering walls of the slot canyon gave way to a beautiful flower-filled meadow as we followed an old phone line up through Bright Angel Canyon. Using the bridge route (because of the swollen and uncrossable Bright Angel Creek), we turned off the North Kaibab Trail and went another one half mile to the falls. The waterfall came from a cliff about 100 feet above. Around half way down, the water hit a moss covered pinnacle of rock. The water splashed and sprayed then trickled down the moss in every direction. We were able to climb up behind the top of the pinnacle where the best pictures were taken.

After taking a break in the spray of the falls, we began our return to the ranch which amounted to a long easy walk downhill. The hikers who explored the Clear Creek Trail reported that the views on this hike were tremendous and they only had to hike about three miles to see some of the best ones. Again, we waited for dinner. In the meantime, we hobbled over to the showers or relaxed on the benches. Yours truly soaked her feet in the cold creek for the second day in a row! Simply heaven!

There were deer which lived in and around Phantom Ranch. Everyone enjoyed seeing them nibble their way around the ranch in the morning, late afternoon and evening. They didn't seem afraid of people in the least. On this evening, someone had dislocated his knee on the hike down and had to be taken out by helicopter. The helicopter landed right in front of the ranger station. There's a rumor that this door-to-door service costs around $5000.

Much care should be taken on the 5 hour descent into the canyon. Don't hurry and keep your concentration.

Day 3

The next morning, all hikers "met the mountain." Some left without breakfast for an early start. Some stayed and ate breakfast at 5:00am. Some hiked up the North Kaibab Trail. Two hiked up the South Kaibab Trail. But, most hiked up the Bright Angel Trail albeit at different starting times. We all had at least one buddy with us but, in the end, because of the nature of the climb, it was one hiker against the hill.

We began the climb hiking down to the river and crossing on the Silver Bridge. As the sun came into the inner canyon, we hiked next to the river then turned left to begin the Devil's Corkscrew, a series of switchbacks seen in the photo to the left which brought the hiker up to the gardens. For around 2 miles, we hiked next to a creek filled with vegetation which included several large trees. Eventually, we arrived at our halfway point, Indian Gardens. Indian Gardens contained a campground for backpackers and shaded area for a nice rest stop. Many hikers use this place for a prolonged break. Still feeling fairly fresh and wanting to keep shade around as long as possible, our break was only around 15 minutes.

After Indian Garden, few pictures are taken. First, the view doesn't change much. Second, concentra- tion on getting to the top takes over your thoughts. Keep the pace slow and steady. Stay hydrated. Rest in the shady spots. Look out for the many mule trains going by. Gage your water intake and reserves. Eat electrolytes. Drink electrolytes. Make new friends as you leapfrog with them over and over on the way up. Pay no mind to the first small tunnel you pass through. There is still a ways to go. Finally, the second small tunnel has arrived. You pass through this one, make the choice on whether to go left to the lodges or right to the parking lot and, poof, you're there!

Congratulations! You made it! Pats on the backs all around. Many kudos and we can't wait until next year!

Guest Photos
This section is reserved for any photos that guest photographers would like to post from this amazing trip into another world at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Just email your favorite photos to Kay Blackwell and she will post them. (Please, only your favorites!!!)

David Kretchmar is one hiker that hiked the Clear Creek Trail. He sends us these photos taken from that overlooking trail which leads east from Phantom Ranch. Above is a photo of Sumner Butte. There were many flowers growing on the plateau on which they hiked. To the left is a photo of the Phantom Ranch from above.

As the trail leads east above the Colorado River, views of the river below and the South Kaibab Trail are seen across the canyon. To the left, you see the final switchbacks of the Kaibab Trail as it descends to the tunnel and Black Bridge. Below, this photo shows the canyon going east where there is no access from above. Thanks David!

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